Why would you need a messaging app?
If you have an iPhone, it is very likely that you have text messaging capabilities on that device. If that is the case, then why would anyone ever have a need for a third-party messaging apps? For starters, these apps allow users to communicate with their friends without having to be tied to the same device. With the help of a messaging app, you can freely message your friends whether you’re using your main phone, a new phone, or in some cases, a desktop computer. Not only that, but it allows you to talk with people without having to give them your phone number, which is too personal for some people. It significantly streamlines the whole messaging process, and these sorts of apps are becoming increasingly popular. So, what are the best messaging apps available on the iOS platform?
GroupMe isn’t quite as popular as some of the other apps on this list, but it is gaining steam as one of the more easy-to-use group chat apps around. As you can infer from the name, GroupMe is an app that is geared almost exclusively towards people who are looking to chat with others in a group. Adding someone to a chat is really simple — you can add them either by using their username, or by using their phone number. As I mentioned before, a common advantage of using messaging apps over traditional text messaging is that people don’t need to have your phone number to contact you. GroupMe can require a phone number, but it is only required by the person who is creating the chat. This makes GroupMe an ideal app for someone who is looking to speak with an organized group of people — it is frequently used by teachers, managers, and anyone in a position of power who may think that a chat needs organizing. Its interface is simple, and it’s possible for people to be signed up to join the chat without having the app downloaded. It’s virtually fool-proof.
Now, GroupMe is really good at this one specific aspect of messaging. However, when it comes to chatting with someone directly, it becomes much more complicated. The app supports direct messaging, but it is complicated, and it is a lot more difficult than you would hope. I really like this application, and I think that it’s easy to use. However, it is not as intuitive or as simple as some of the other apps on this list. (A common issue is that, since many chats are tied directly to your phone number, if you’re to open the app for the first time, you may be surprised to find dozens of group chats that have nothing to do with you.) It could stand some polish, and it is not as commonly used as some of the other apps listed, but it will do the right job in a pinch. Not to mention, it has some really good specific uses in creating organized group discussion.
Most people are familiar with Snapchat’s primary functions. Users are able to take pictures and share them for brief periods of time. What you might not know is that Snapchat also offers users the capability to directly message, voice chat, or video chat with their friends. It’s not a feature that a lot of people know about, but it’s there. Snapchat is sort of like the opposite of GroupMe, in that it is great for individual chatting, but you aren’t at all able to communicate with someone in a group. However, I think that this particular messaging platform is really convenient, if only because of its popularity. These days, most teenagers and young adults regularly use this app. Its popularity makes it to where chatting is more convenient to do overall. As long as someone has an account, they’re able to direct message you. It’s especially good when you consider that it isn’t really a messaging app. The messaging is more of just a side-feature, and it’s pretty solid as far as side-features go. It is convenient, above all else.
However, convenience doesn’t always mean quality. Snapchat is great for sharing silly pictures and videos with your friends, but just like the app itself, its messaging features are sort of shallow. I decided to place this app over GroupMe, if only because it’s a more popular and commonly-used app. However, I think that Snapchat’s chatting may have less functionality than GroupMe does. It’s a really good app if you’re looking for some less-than-significant or more casual conversation, but I think that when it comes to more organized or serious discussion, you might want to explore other options.
Kik has been popular for several years now, and it made headlines a little while ago by being one of the more “unsafe” messaging apps on there. (The app was criticized for being home to child predators and perverts, but it’s worth noting that this was really only due to Kik’s popularity, and that you can encounter those sorts of people on pretty much any other messaging application, too.) Kik is really easy to use. All you have to do is register under a username, add your friends under that same username, and you can chat with them freely using text, pictures, videos, and so on. Not only that, but Kik allows you to easily chat with people in a group, as well. It offers complete and total privacy. You don’t even need a phone number to sign up. Although this also means that it’s easier for, ahem, unsavory characters to register, it also makes it arguably one of the easiest apps to use on this list.
So, a few years ago, Kik would have definitely been the top app on this list. Why have I decided to place it so lowly? To begin with, people don’t use Kik as often as they used to. The app is pretty bare-bones. This isn’t bad by any means, but a lot of people have abandoned this application is place of others, which offer additional features like voice or video chatting. I think it’s fitting that Kik end up smack-dab in the middle of this list, because it’s probably the most “average” of the best messaging apps out there. It fulfills its purpose well, but it isn’t anything to write home about. There really isn’t anything special about this app, but it works well, and I recommend it to anyone who is looking for an easy and effective messaging application.
Unlike Kik, Discord is rapidly becoming one of the most popular messaging platforms out there. There is already talk that the service could end up dethroning Skype, which would be enormous. For those who are unfamiliar, Discord is an application that was originally created for gamers. It allowed them to freely and easily voice chat with one another during a gaming session in such a way that was more private and high-quality than what may be integrated in a traditional voice chat setting. It doesn’t have to be used exclusively for gaming, though. Discord allows user to make individual servers (which function sort of like group chats) where individuals can communicate via different text or voice channels. More recently, they have also added the capability to hold private group calls. Seeing as “normal” discussion wasn’t really being considered during the app’s design, its interface is a little confusing compared to apps like Kik or GroupMe, which look more to emulate a traditional text messaging experience.
Once you get through the learning curve, however, Discord is arguably one of the most intuitive, actively developed, and increasingly popular social messaging platforms that is currently available. The only core features that are really lacking in Discord are private group chats, but creating your own private servers are really easy. The only other reason I decided to place Discord so low on this list is because of its confusing interface and lack of overall polish. I personally love this app, but I can understand why some people may be overwhelmed by its general look. It’s so different from what most people are used to, so I think it might be considered slightly less accessible than other apps. Still, if I were being biased, this would be my #1 without a doubt.
This may not be a surprise to anyone. WhatsApp is one of those apps that has pretty much always been a popular messaging app, and unlike apps like Kik, it has remained highly popular over the years. In fact, in February of 2016, it was recorded as being the most popular messaging applications in the world. Even from just a purely objective standpoint, this app is considered “the best around”. The app offers text chatting, group chatting, and voice chatting, as well. Recently, WhatsApp has also added support for desktop platforms, as well. I know that in this article I’ve been talking about these platforms from a purely iOS-centric point of view, but when you’re looking for convenience and interoperability, it’s really convenient to be able to use it on a desktop, as well. This “app” can even just be used in a traditional web browser. It’s the ultimate service in terms of popularity, ease of use, and accessibility.
So, that concludes my list of the top five best messaging apps on iOS. There are still plenty of other messaging apps available on this platform, and I couldn’t possibly list all of them. Did I forget about your favorite messaging app? Feel free to drop into the comments section and tell me about them.